[consulting] Guilds vs. Unions

Sam Cohen sam at samcohen.com
Mon Aug 10 20:48:15 UTC 2009

Does anyone realistically think there's even a remote possibility of this
happening?  Writers and Actors were being exploited by large studios , so
that had reason to get together.

Drupal is a completely different marketplace.

I suggest that the pro-union folks put up a poll and send a link to this
list to see if anybody wants this.

I may be wrong, but my guess is that very few of us have any interest in
forming a union.  I know I don't.



On Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 4:27 PM, Alfredo Reyes <alfredo.e.reyes at gmail.com>wrote:

> That's why I put "guilds" in irony quotes. I should have been more
> explicit. The point about intellectual property remains.
> On Mon, Aug 10, 2009 at 4:22 PM, Matt Chapman <Matt at ninjitsuweb.com>wrote:
>> I don't know anything about the Graphic Artists Guild, but the Screen
>> Actors Guild and the Writers guild are in fact simply unions, in every way.
>> The are not 'trade associations' and they do not include employers, and they
>> have nothing to do with intellectual property protection.
>> Only the Producer's Guild is a trade association. All the other Hollywood
>> guilds are just Unions by another name. There's no such clear definition of
>> the term 'guild' as you suggest.
>> Best,
>> Matt
>> Alfredo Reyes wrote:
>>> Unions and Guilds seem to be getting conflated here, but they are very
>>> different things.
>>> Guilds are like trade associations - they can include employers, workers
>>> and independent consultants. Unions are for workers and freelancers only,
>>> not for business owners with employees or management-level employees.
>>> Guilds are medieval in origin. They existed to stifle free trade, protect
>>> territorial monopolies, enforce social hierarchies within trades, and to
>>> hoard intellectual property. They weren't just fraternities that banded
>>> together to educate and certify their members, they actively worked to
>>> withhold knowledge from outsiders and new tradesmen. Guilds lost influence
>>> in the 18th century, and were criticized by both classical liberals and
>>> socialists as stifling free trade and creating inequalities among workers.
>>> In modern times, in the United States at least, the three most well-known
>>> surviving "guilds" are the Screen Actors Guild, the Writers Guild and the
>>> Graphic Artists Guild. The primary mission of these guilds is to enforce
>>> intellectual property and copyrights. This is problematic for anyone working
>>> in the free software field, as the major surviving function of these guilds
>>> is to enforce an intellectual property regime that almost all Drupal coders
>>> are opposed to, or at least not working within. The only reason these guilds
>>> outlasted all the others that passed away over the past 200 years is because
>>> they were able to advocate for, create and enforce increasingly restrictive
>>> intellectual property laws.
>>> Unions are workers' organizations. Only non-management employees and
>>> freelancers, or Drupal shops organized as membership organizations like
>>> Koumbit and the Chicago Technology Cooperative, would be eligible to join.
>>> That means some of the people who are influential in the Drupal community
>>> and active in the Drupal Association would be excluded from participation in
>>> a union, maybe even Dries, if he has the power to hire, fire and discipline
>>> Acquia employees.
>>> The purpose of a union might not only be, as Victor pointed out,
>>> defending the entire community of interests of Drupal coders, but also
>>> intervening in individual disputes with employers over wages, working
>>> conditions and violations of labor law (these do occur, even in Drupal shops
>>> that aren't "sweatshops"). Some Drupal employers might see this as a threat
>>> to the control of their companies, to their reputations, and to their
>>> influence on the overall direction of the Drupal project.
>>> Another thing a union could do is provide group health insurance,
>>> retirement funds, and political advocacy for fairer treatment of
>>> freelancers. This is what the already-existing Freelancers Union (
>>> http://www.freelancersunion.org) does. There's nothing stopping any
>>> Drupal freelancer from joining this union immediately, but of course,
>>> employees of Drupal shops can't join, and the Freelancer's Union does not
>>> intervene in employer disputes. Perhaps a tech union not limited to
>>> freelancers could provide similar services for all Drupalists, as well as
>>> expand into contractual relations with individual shops, although I suspect
>>> the demand for the latter would be quite low. It should be pointed out that
>>> most, but not all unions in the United States are organized by workplace,
>>> while it is more common for union membership in Europe and elsewhere to
>>> "follow" the worker from job to job, not depending on contractual relations
>>> with individual employers. Perhaps this more flexible model is what IT
>>> workers need.
>>> A union could also provide certifications, events and training, but the
>>> barriers to entry to those programs should be low (affordable, available in
>>> many locations internationally, and not requiring that you sign away your
>>> rights and privacy oDesk-style) and have a firm ground in open source
>>> ideals.
>>> A union could also function as a more democratic counterbalance to the
>>> Drupal Association by allowing all its members to constitute a general
>>> assembly with voting rights, rather than limiting such rights to a  few
>>> permanent members like the Drupal Association does.
>>>  ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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